by Peter Morrell
Home to five of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in America - Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point, Spanish Bay and Poppy Hills - the heavenly Monterey Peninsula is surrounded not only by the Pacific Ocean but also by a bevy of wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms where, after a morning round on the links, wine lovers can sample innumerable fine, locally produced wines.
What makes Monterey County a special place for wine growing is a natural combination of broad patches of excellent geologic soil combined with its decidedly cool climate influenced by the region's close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The coolness of Monterey's climate sets it apart from that of the far warmer Napa Valley and inland Sonoma County vineyards and is a most desirable region for the production of both excellent quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals.
Nine of Monterey's best wine growing districts have been granted their own appellations. They are: Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco, San Lucas, Hames Valley, Chalone, Carmel Valley, San Antonio Valley, Monterey and San Bernabe and many of Monterey County's best wineries have tasting rooms open to the public located within 15 minutes drive from the peninsula. Easy to access winery tasting rooms that I recommend are Talbott Vineyards, Heller Estate, Bernardus and Morgan - all of which are located in either Carmel Valley Village or "the Barnyard" - and Ventana Vineyards, just outside of Monterey and Bargetto, in Monterey. For the real thing, about an hour's drive away is the Chalone Vineyards tasting room, located at their winery, in a canyon just east of Soledad at the foot of the Pinnacles National Monument.
Of course, with Monterey County now home to over 85 wineries and vineyards, all local hotels, inns, resorts and restaurants are sure to stock many Monterey County wines for your dining pleasure, so, if you can't make it to a tasting room or winery, they'll be there for you to enjoy as you dine. In addition to the wineries mentioned above, be sure to try the excellent Chardonnay from both Mer Soleil Vineyards and Carmel Road, the fine Cabernets and Merlot of both J. Lohr Winery and Chateau Julien and the superlative Pinot Noirs from both Pisoni and Gary's Vineyards, two of the best sources for great Pinots in America.
Peter Morrell is Chairman and Wine Advisor to Morrell & Company, one of the most prominent wine merchants in America. An avid golfer, he is also a noted international wine authority who has garnered numerous awards and honors around the world. He frequently lectures and writes on wine in addition to appearing on television news and talk shows. morrellwinebar.com